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July 10, 2005


Tango styles

From time to time, inevitably heated discussions about the different styles in Tango crop up on the Tango-L list. The following is a classification proposed by a regular poster to the list, which I in fact quite agree with.

As the original poster stated, this is actually more than an academic exercise because many tango organisers outside of Argentina are responsible for introducing Tango instructors to their respective cities. Some of these organisers are totally ignorant of differences in tango styles and end up exposing their beginner students to a confusing learning process. While this exposure to different styles can be very enriching for intermediate/advanced dancers, it is bound to be very confusing for beginners. As a result, it is important to know the most common styles so that the organiser and his students can decide what way or form they wish to dance.

Now, onto the styles.

  1. Estilo Milonguero (also called Apilado):
    This is a particular style of dancing tango with a selection of steps and technique suitable for dancing in crowded places, as taught by Susana Miller, Cacho Dante and Tete. It is always danced in close embrace, which is maintained for the entire dance; it is usual to dance perfectly framed in front of each other – nipple to nipple – and this hold being altered as sliding movement of the chests to one side or to the other to do certain moves. However, this dos not mean that dancing in “close embrace” automatically means dancing Milonguero, because most likely you may be dancing Salon.
  2. Nueovo Tango:
    Nuevo tango is largely a pedagogic approach to tango that emphasizes a structural analysis of the dance in which previously unexplored combinations of steps and new figures can be found, as taught by Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, Chicho Frumboli and Mauricio Castro. The style is danced in an open, loose or elastic embrace with a very upright posture, and great emphasis is placed on dancers maintaining their own axes.
  3. Estilo Salon:
    This is the form used by most instructors and dancers all over the world. It is generally danced in close embrace but it will use an open embrace as needed to perform certain figures, and then return to the close embrace to continue dancing. In Salon, the close embrace generally consists of placing the right nipple of the man on the chest bone of the woman. It can be very simple (Tango Liso), and mostly walked with very few figures – mostly ochos or very elaborated with the use of embellishments and complex figures. Salon has all the possibilities and ornaments including the use of all the steps of Milonguero. Milonguero and Nuevo tango take a selection of steps and moves from Salon to define their particular way of dancing.

One final point (gathered from different sources) is that a style is not solely determined by the embrace. It is a combination of the posture, the embrace and the typical footwork or vocabulary used in the dance. Another useful reference is Stephen Brown’s list.

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1 Comment
  1. May 19 2009

    From my observations during the recent trip to Buenos Aires there seems to be a fourth major category: Salon-nuevo. This is more like a hybrid between Salon and Tango Nuevo. I am not sure if this is an officially recognised term yet, but this way of dancing seems quite popular with the young people as (at the risk of over-generalisation or pigeon-holing these instructors) typified by people like Pablo Rodriguez or Federico Naveira.

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